Friday, November 21, 2008

Oh, barf.

We have moved into studying Seasonal Forests with our Planet Earth unit. We have been learning a lot about animals that live in the forests and we are focusing on owls this week. Also,Riley and Cole are doing the Five in a Row book Owl Moon.

One of the most interesting things about owls is how they digest their food. First, they swallow their prey whole. Their stomachs digest everything except the fur and the bones of the animal they swallowed. After digestion, their stomach compresses the bones and fur into a pellet and the owl throws up this dry fur ball of a pellet.

You see where this is going, don't ya? Gulp.

There are companies out there that make a living off of collecting these owl pellets and sterilizing them and selling them to people for science lessons.

I know.

So we had to do it. We just had to. It's like a treasure hunt. If you happen to consider rodent skeletons to be treasure. And it was sterilized, after all.

But don't think for a second that didn't stop me from boiling my children's hands in water and then soaking them in alcohol when we were done.

You just break apart the pellet...

And start pulling away fur...see, it's not so scary...

Look! a tibia!

And a tiny mouse skull!

You can download all kinds of sheets to use with this activity, like this bone identification sheet.

Come on, you know you want to do it. You can order them at

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Learning the States

Tyler is learning all of the states and their locations. Here is an idea for mixing it up a bit when you grow weary of the states song and filling in a blank map.

Put post-it notes over the state names on a large map.

Using a marker, put a state name on each post-it note. It's even self-correcting when you are done.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Learning "Hullabaloo" style

Have your kids played the Cranium game Hullabaloo? It's a game where you spread out little pads with pictures all over the floor and then listen to the directions of the voice...skip to the picture of the elephant...hop to a picture of food...sneak to a red pad...etc.

Today we played Word Hullabaloo. I wrote words on pieces of paper and we spread them out on the floor, then I gave directions like, "spin to a word that rhymes with hat...walk backward to a word with the same beginning sound as tap...tiptoe to a word with the same vowel sound as dog..." You get the idea. It was fun! It is great for kids who like to be moving while they are learning.

Thank goodness Cole remembered to put on his safety goggles. Good grief, can you imagine the consequences if the eyes weren't protected in a dangerous game like this? Makes me shudder.

Also, please be certain to take time to precisely cut your squares like I did here. Veeery important.

Cole asked if we could do the worm to a word. Absolutely. Break dancing is encouraged as always. Stop. Hammertime.

And of course, Riley requested cartwheels. They are, after all, her reason for living.You could use this game for learning anything that can be written on a piece of paper. Have fun!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I feel like I don't post very often about work that only Garrett is doing. It is just hard for me to fashion an interesting post out of symbiosis and pseudopods. And I just don't think that discussing the Diatoms in the Phylum Chrysophyta would grab your attention and make you want to read more. Oh, those diatoms. They are a crazy bunch.

But I wanted to post something he does on a regular basis that you might like to use also, if you have a 12-14ish year old. It is called Above and Beyond Five in A Row. He is reading the Newberry award winning book Hitty, Her First Hundred Years. And following the book of activities. It is pretty much self-guided and picks what he wants to learn about and do with each chapter. He keeps a notebook of what he has done. It covers art, cooking, history, science, language arts, and other things. We have both learned a lot from it!

He made gingerbread from the book

There is plenty of vocabulary and art

Learning the history of a quill pen and and how to use it


Learning about what causes sea-sickness

And other ocean discoveriesIf you have an older child, this might be something he or she would really enjoy. It's a relaxed, interesting way of learning that they can be in charge of. And you know how they like to be in charge. Check it out!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Need a pick me up?

If you live in the OKC area please please please go to the EFL meeting tonight! You will not regret it. Cheryl Lange is speaking on Authentic Education. You know, ditching the one-size-fits-all, fill-in-the-blanks, study-for-the-test-then-forget, tedious type of learning for real, meaningful, last-a-lifetime education. You will leave refreshed, renewed and excited!

We meet at 6:30 at Memorial Road Church of Christ in Edmond. (In the building behind the main building. Enter under the covered overhang.)

Friday, November 7, 2008

I love this.

You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.-- Clay P. Bedford

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sweet school

I may have just been suckered. I'm not sure. I was ready to start school this morning and everyone was messing with their Halloween candy and exchanging and bargaining.

I said "Come on guys, let's start school."

And Garrett said, "This is school. It's marketing and trading."

Then Tyler asked if they could go through their candy and we could research the history of different candies. And eat some.

Hmmm...well, one of our goals in education is for our kids to be interested and inquisitive about everything around them. For them to want to learn about the things that they encounter. For them to know how to find out anything they want to know.


I ended up giving in and changing the morning plans. This resulted in us learning some pretty cool things, like that M&Ms started during the Spanish civil war when soldiers coated their chocolate pellets with hard sugar to keep them from melting. And Tootsie Rolls were named after the daughter of a small candy shop owner in the 1800s. We also watched a video on how Lemonheads are made.

For the rest of "Candy school," Riley and Cole are going to do some graphing and counting.

Tyler is going to make a timeline of when several candies were introduced along with a summary of the history of each.

Garrett is going to do some stock market research on candy companies and when their stock rises and falls throughout the year.

A huge part of learning is learning how to learn. What they are learning about isn't always as important as the process. Because once you know how to learn, you can learn whatever your heart desires.

We may also do some research on nutrition and hopefully I can come up with some episodes of "Unwrapped" on the food network today!

Haha! Now who's the sucker?